Interview with Wyatt Tee Walker


Wyatt Tee Walker:

The use of the fire hose and the dogs were on two separate occasions. The dogs came early and were not used on demonstrators; even the revisionists who write about Birmingham now have missed that. I stumbled on a ploy early on as to how to create a confrontation. I had promised Dr. King, he told me, "You've got to find some way to create a confrontation." I said, "I don't know what it is, Leader, but I'll find out." And our demonstration on a given Sunday afternoon was very late, two or three hours with morning services and whatnot, and a crowd collected of a thousand people waiting to see what was going to be done that day. And A.D. King and John Porter, and Nelson Smith led a group of twelve or thirteen people, and they were arrested in six or seven minutes. Now this crowd had been out there waiting for an hour or so and they, you know, nothing had happened, and before long, somebody was taunting the police dogs. They were out there in full array, and that's what created the confrontation. The next day, UPI carried the story, "1,100 March in Birmingham—Dogs Used." I got on the phone and called Atlanta, I said, "Leader, I got it." He say, "What is it, Wyatt?" I said, "What we're going to do is delay the demonstrations until the people get home from work in the afternoon, and let the, let the, let the onlookers collect." I said, "And we can count on Bull Connor and his folks to do something silly." And that is how the confrontation began with the dogs. The water hose was another circumstance. By the time we got to D-Day plus 2, there was no place else to put people in jail. The Jefferson County Jail was filled, the City Jail was filled, the Bessemer Jail, the Ainsley Jail—they had people out at the fairgrounds supposedly in jail under arrest, and at the city auditorium there, we had 4,200 people in jail. So they decided what they would do is break up the demonstrations before they got started and this was when the children came. And that's when they started using the fire hoses. The so-called "Battle of Ingram Park" was not a battle. It was a Roman holiday. We were in the midst of negotiating whether the marches would continue and the onlookers had gathered. And the business of the fire hoses being used to skitter people down the sidewalk around Ingram Park were onlookers, they were not a part of the Movement, so to speak, they were bystanders.